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Schwartz v. Opportunity International, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 21, 2015



JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sheila D. Schwartz filed a Complaint against Opportunity International, Inc., ("Opportunity"); Vicki Escarra; and Connie Stryjak, alleging various claims related to the termination of Schwartz's employment. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss all claims. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


The following is taken from the Complaint, which is assumed to be true for the purposes of a motion to dismiss. Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Opportunity is an Illinois corporation. (Compl. at ¶ 5.) Vicki Escarra is the CEO of Opportunity, and Connie Stryjak is the Chief Human Resource Officer. ( Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.)

From 1993 to 2012, Schwartz was employed by ProMedica, a non-profit healthcare system. ( Id. at ¶ 9.) Escarra approached Schwartz about accepting a job with Opportunity as its Chief Philanthropic Officer. ( Id. at ¶ 10.) Defendants offered a separation agreement as an addendum to the proposed employment agreement in an effort to persuade Schwartz to accept the position. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) Stryjak sent a letter with additional details about the job offer. (Compl. Ex. 2.) The letter stated that Schwartz would be an at-will employee: "You acknowledge that at all times during your employment with Opportunity or any of its affiliates, you will be employed on an at-will basis, which means either you or Opportunity can end the employment relationship at any time for any lawful reason, with or without notice, with or without cause." ( Id. ) The letter also stated that Schwartz would be offered a severance package if it terminated her employment without cause in the first twenty-four months:

During the first twenty-four (24) months of your employment, if Opportunity terminates your employment "without cause, " provided you first execute a Separation and Release Agreement that is substantially in the form of Exhibit B attached hereto, Opportunity agrees to pay you severance pay in an amount equal to twelve (12) months of your initial annual base salary... or your annual base salary at the time of termination, which ever amount is greater, minus legally required federal and state payroll deductions. The severance pay shall be payable over twelve (12) months in approximately equal semi-monthly installments in accordance with Opportunity's normal payroll cycle.

( Id. ) In regard to vacation and sick days, the letter stated: "You will receive three (3) weeks of vacation and twelve (12) sick days each calendar year. For the first year, vacation and sick time will be prorated according to start date and may not be used during your introductory period." ( Id. )

The offer was made contingent on Schwartz's acceptance of an Arbitration Agreement, a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement, an At Will Acknowledgement, satisfactory reference checks, and successful completion of a background check and a drug test. ( Id. ) Relying on the Separation Agreement, Schwartz accepted the position of Chief Philanthropic Officer with Opportunity and started on February 18, 2013. (Compl. at ¶ 14.)

Schwartz exceeded her performance goals in 2013 and received a performance bonus. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) On May 6, 2014, Defendants terminated Schwartz's employment. ( Id. at ¶17.) Defendants' reason for terminating Schwartz's employment had not been mentioned to her during her employment or during her performance evaluation. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) Schwartz transmitted a signed copy of the Separation Agreement to Defendants on May 11, 2014. ( Id. at ¶ 20.) Defendants did not pay Schwartz for 12 unused sick days and 7.5 unused vacation days. ( Id. at ¶ 23.) Schwartz requested payment for the unused days, but Defendants refused payment. ( Id. at ¶ 25.) Schwartz filed the instant Complaint on July 28, 2014.


Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must allege enough facts to support a claim that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). Facial plausibility exists when the court can "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). All well-pleaded allegations are presumed to be true, and all inferences are read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lavalais v. Village of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013). This presumption is not extended to legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.' Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009)). The complaint must provide a defendant "with fair notice' of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).


Schwartz's Complaint alleges seven claims. Count I is a breach of contract claim against Opportunity. Count II is a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing claim against Opportunity. Count III alleges Opportunity violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Count IV alleges Opportunity violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), 820 ILL. COMP. STAT. 115/1 et seq. Count V alleges Escarra and Stryjak violated the IWPCA. ...

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